OFNC update: The impact of current lockdown on practices in England

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We reported in our statement of 8 January that the OFNC was in urgent discussions with NHS England about potential additional support for optical practices affected by the new restrictions. We have proposed potential models for this to NHS England and discussions are ongoing.

This week NHS England were able to share with us the GOS claims data for January 2021, which are a combination of real-time eGOS claims and paper claims. Taken together they suggest slightly lower overall GOS activity in January 2021 than in January 2020. Although this is a broad-brush picture based on aggregate data, we accept that the trend over the 10 months since the pandemic hit does not provide a strong case for generalised COVID-19 support across all GOS contractors at this point.

However, many practices have contacted OFNC member bodies calling for help as they are suffering a sharp downturn in demand for face-to-face care. This is because of the current restrictions, the Government’s strong ‘stay at home’ messaging and the prospect of vaccination encouraging people to postpone care. Some are reporting activity at 50% or less of the usual level for January.

We are therefore urging NHS England as a matter of urgency to put in place some targeted, short-term financial support for practices experiencing a significant downturn in face-to-face activity and struggling to remain operational. We will provide a further update as soon as we can.

In the meantime we are pleased that the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out for patient-facing staff in optical practices and domiciliary providers is making good progress. Any GOS contractor experiencing difficulty in arranging vaccinations for their staff should contact their Local Optical Committee for assistance in the first instance.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to editors

The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) is the national negotiating body for eye care in England with the Westminster Parliament, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England-NHS Improvement. It comprises the leaders of the UK representative bodies: ABDO, AOP, FODO and BMA (for OMPs) and works in partnerships with the College of Optometrists and the General Optical Council.